Disaster or cool adventure, you be the judge (Oahu, 2/23/13)

DH and I had a wonderful breakfast/brunch this morning with Aunty Jan at Big City Diner in Kaneohe.  And then we were off to kayak. But in our haste to meet Aunty this morning, Mom forgot her fancy paddle at the house so we had to go back after breakfast – a 45 min round trip. We got to Kailua Sailboard and Kayak to find hundreds of kayaks at the ready. Guess we didn’t really need a reservation after all. And the kayaks had back rests! Deluxe! Today we wore fingerless gloves and surf socks in our Tevas. We debated whether to wear long sleeve surf shirts but it was mostly sunny so we decided not to.

The guy that helped us had lived in Nagano, Japan for 8 years and had married a Japanese girl. He noticed my middle name Naito so we chatted about Wakayama where part of my family comes from.
We had to haul the 2man kayak overland about half a mile thru the park to the river where we ditched the kayak wheels in the pile of wheels. We paddled 100 yds down the river then again dragged the kayak over the sand berm to the beach. The 3′ waves made the beach launch tricky. We got Dad in the front seat of the boat but we couldn’t keep it perpendicular to the waves, get me in, and have me drive forward with the paddles in time to keep from being capsized by the next wave. In other words, we capsized on the first attempt. The second launch attempt we capsized again and when Dad stood up, the kayak, now sideways, and pushed by a huge wave, knocked him down again. 3 times was too much. He was now covered in sand from head to foot. “I’m done” said Dad. Two people took pity on us and offered to help us launch. I think the right way to launch would have been to get Allyn in, then push out beyond the surf then get in myself. But I was way too short for that. Hawaii beaches are very steep. Beyond the break, I would have been up to my neck and then I wouldnt have had the upper body strength to pull my self into the boat. My normal beach launch method is the brute force method – paddle like hell straight into the breaking waves. It can work in California, but in 3′ foot Hawaii surf crashing on a steep beach – not easily. And with a novice partner, basically impossible.
I really wanted to get to Flat Island. I really wanted to use my paddle that I had dragged all the way to Hawaii in my luggage for a 2nd time. I thought thru the risks. There were a number of other kayakers in the water. They were struggling against the wind and waves also, making slow progress. There were lifeguards at Kailua and I knew they would already have their eye on me as a lone paddler. If I capsized I could hang on to the boat (because I would be leashed to it) but I probably couldn’t climb back in. But i could hang on long enough to get rescued. The most likely damage from capsizing would “only” be losing my expensive paddle. And Dad did not like the idea of me trying to go it alone.
I decided to try going it alone. So I launched again from the beach with Allyn’s help. I was able to punch thru the waves and get beyond the break, but instead of being able to pause and float and take pictures, the wind kept pushing me and rotating the boat parallel to the waves. I barely had enough time to fasten the kayak leash to my wrist before I was forced to paddle to straighten myself out for the next swell.

I could see this trip was going to require continuous paddling without stopping. The white buoy was at the half way mark and seemed impossibly far away. I wasn’t sure I could make the 2nd leg to the island. I already knew the water was deep. It was taking a long time to reach the buoy. I was not in shape for kayaking, this was my first kayaking in about a year. If I pushed and made it to Flat island, i would be very tired coming back even with the wind at my back. That would be dangerous since I could see it took all my strength just to stay pointed in the direction I wanted. The swells were deep. The kayak would slap down onto the water every time I crested a swell. I felt balanced and wasn’t worried about falling out. Only about the huge amt of energy required to move forward in the chop.

I got to the buoy and decided to turn around, judging that I had depleted half my strength. Then I realized I had forgotten to take one of my trophy pictures: my feet in the front of the kayak in the foreground, with my destination in the background. It was too late to swing back around to take it. I aimed the camera over my shoulder wildly and clicked the shutter, hoping Flat Island was in the shot.
As I feared, it was not easy coming back. It took constant maneuvering to stay pointed at the beach and not get rotated parallel to the surf (which would have swamped me). The swells pushed me along a little, which helped. I wanted to kayak surf in, but just as I reached the beach, i got turned and the wave dumped me out of the kayak. Again. This time the velcro leash broke free from my arm. Lot of good that leash would have done me if I’d actually capsized out in the deep. I’m so scraped up now from the kayak hull hitting me, especially on my right leg. It really stung in the shower later.
Long walk back to the kayak store. “Did you have fun?” they asked.
I finally read the Conditions board AFTER we got back. Flat Island: “advanced paddlers only”. Waves: 6-8 foot face. Wind 25mph. All coded yellow and red. Ha ha. Winter conditions in Kailua are tough even on a clear day. Later, Kaina said he wouldn’t have gone out today. Maybe just to make me feel better.
Then, I almost forgot my paddle at the showers. And, I forgot to take a picture of the Conditions board, so guess what, a third trip to Kailua today.
DH was a really good sport today. I wonder why he even goes with me. If he had known what we were getting into today he would not have gone. It was very challenging even for me, the experienced paddler. I wish I’d had a GoPro with me today to properly capture how crazy it was out there. I felt sorry for all the tourists that lah-dee-dah’d out from Waikiki. Kailua is held up as the premier kayaking destination in Oahu. This would have been dangerous for the inexperienced paddler and could easily put them off kayaking for a while. Doesn’t make for good business though. I know DH’s interest in kayaking dropped several notches today.
Tonight my shoulders arms and legs are sore sore sore.
TL, DR: know your limits. 
Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks 

130 Kailua Road Suite 101B, Kailua, Oahu, HI http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60652-d947324-Reviews-Kailua_Beach_Adventures_by_Kailua_Sailboards_and_Kayaks_Inc-Kailua_Oahu_Hawaii.html

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *